1- Why haven’t you digitised your content yet?

Why haven’t you digitised your content yet?

Do you have analogue content sitting on shelves?  (Specifically, content in audio and video formats — film is always special and will be covered separately)?

Then you aren’t preserving that content, you are waiting to preserve it. It will HAVE to be digitised, because all analogue audio and video formats are obsolete. With obsolescence comes the twin handmaidens of destruction:

twins1- risk: when you do want to digitise, you may not be able to find the equipment or the knowledge needed to play back your old tapes. Also they will have aged further, bringing more playback problems and outright failures.

2- cost: digitisation may seem expensive, but it has never been cheaper than it was in 2010 to 2012. Costs were dropping from 2000 to 2012 or so (we would like to think the Presto projects influenced that), but now (2013) the difficulties with getting equipment, spares, repairs and skilled operators has started to hit. Costs are now rising — service providers have been saying so, publicly, on the AMIA email list: AMIA list serve <AMIA-L@LSV.UKY.EDU>.

If you are waiting, the first question to ask is: exactly what are you waiting for? You are probably waiting for one (or more) of these five enablers:

  • knowledge of what to do
  • knowledge of who can do the work
  • permission
  • staffing
  • funding

But the time for waiting is over. Here’s how to get the five enablers:

  • knowledge of what to do — PrestoCentre will tell you. Just read the answer to the FAQ “I want to preserve audiovisual content. How do I get started?”  All the other FAQ answers also provide knowledge of what to do, how to do it and what it costs.
  • knowledge of who can do the work — if you have under 1000 items of any kind of material, the advice (from IASA and from PrestoCentre) is to use a service provider: this is a company which has the equipment and knowledge, and because they are dedicated to the work they can set up an efficient preservation factory workflow. The PrestoCentre has a registry of service providers, and is working on an evaluation system.
  • permission — there are two main sorts: legal (copyright) and institutional (your boss)
    • legal: generally you do not need permission to make preservation copies, and new rules on orphan works makes it legal to make preservation copies of anything which no longer has a clear copyright owner. There are problems with commercial music and cinema films, but are you mandated to preserve them, or do you just hold what amount to access copies? Access copies don’t need digitisation — it could be better and cheaper to simply buy digital replacement.
    • institutional: the first thing you will be asked is: “what’s the business case?”. Read the answer to the FAQ “I need a business case for preservation. How do I do that?”
  • staff and equipment — finding these for old formats will just get harder and harder. There are organisations in every country for radio and TV amateurs, and they may be able to provide volunteers. As the pool of skilled staff and equipment shrinks, your solution will be to use a service provider.
  • funding — these are hard times, but putting it off will only make it harder. Use the business case, believe in it, and believe in the value of your collection and how its value can increase through greater access. Ultimately getting funding for digitisation will be like any other fund-raising operation. There are people with fund-raising skills — you may already have them in your organisation. You just need to focus them on the urgent issue of digitisation of analogue content.

Digitise now or lament forever

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